In our initial consultation, I ask each couple what the most important parts of the day are to have photographed. Most say the ceremony and family photos. But when settling on a photographer and a package, many couples let the dollar amount cloud their decision. They opt for the most number of hours for the least amount of money. I choose to work with each couple to create a wedding photography itinerary that suits their must-have photo list and budget.
I’ll be honest with you… My personal preference with wedding photography is to condense the amount of time we are working together into the fewest number of hours that suit your photo must-have list. This allows my couples to better enjoy their wedding while maximizing their photography budget. This way, they spend less time with me and more with their family and friends. And for my couples, that is the most important part: the celebration; not photography. Ultimately, this means that my couples tend to book 4 to 6 hours of photography rather than 8 to 12. As you can imagine, this results in saving lots of money.
In this article, I’ll help you determine which parts of the day are most important to you, what you might be able to do with out, and how you can where you’ll be spending your wedding photography budget best.
Preparation Photos: 1 Hour Maximum
I once had a couple book me for 3 hours of preparation photos. The couple walked away with hundreds of photos of each bridesmaid and mother sitting in the same chair having their hair and makeup done. And at the end of the day, the couple spent hundreds of dollars to have me present for those 3 hours, but didn’t use half of the photos.
This is a mistake that I know lots of couples make when it comes to planning their wedding photography itinerary. They’ve seen those romantic candids of a bride getting ready with her mother and bridesmaids, and they think that it takes hours to get that shot. But it doesn’t. In fact, we can pack a lot of photos into a very short period of time. Here are my recommendations for making the most of your preparation photos:
- Start preparation photos just before the last person finishes hair and makeup.
- Have your bouquets, jewelry, shoes, and dresses ready to be photographed.
- If you are not photographing robes for the wedding party, your bridesmaids can already be dressed when your photographer arrives.
- Have your photographer take a few shots of hair and makeup touch ups; the dress, shoes, and other details; and then the dress going on.
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First Look: 0.5 Hours Or More
If you want to save time, have most of your photos done before the ceremony. While it is traditional to do family photos, wedding party photos, and photos of the couple during cocktail hour, I love a first look and photos before the ceremony. It is always faster because people tend to be on time and less distracted by other guests. It also allows you to spend your cocktail hour celebrating with your family and friends.
If a first look is for you, you do not need to set aside more time than half an hour. If you are also photographing your family and wedding party before the ceremony, add up to one hour.
The Ceremony: 1 Hour
I usually expect the ceremony to be half an hour, and make sure that my couples are ready to go 30 minutes in advance. This allows me to get to the ceremony site and photograph people arriving. It also allows the couple a few moments of quiet with their wedding party before walking into their ceremony.
Family Photos: 0.5 Hours
You should expect family photos to take about 30 minutes maximum. This might seem quick, but it is absolutely possible, and there are a couple ways you can be sure that it runs smoothly. Here are my recommendations:
- Having your family photos done at the ceremony site. This way, no important family members have an opportunity to wander off and get lost.
- Have your officiant announce when and where family photos will be taking place just before announcing you as married. Also ask that the rest of your guests head straight to cocktail hour.
- Tell the the people who will be a part of group photos when and where these photos will be happening before the wedding day.
Creatives + Wedding Party Photos: 1 Hour Or More
- Ask your guests to go to cocktail hour while you have your creative photos taken. This way, they won’t be standing around watching, trying to talk to you, and distracting you from having your photos done.
- Having everything done on the same property will also help keep things moving quickly. If you are going elsewhere for creative photos, be sure to take into consideration travel time.
The Reception: 3 Hours Minimum
Are you planning a traditional wedding reception with a sit down dinner and speeches? This is an element that my couples often choose not to have photographed, and here’s why: People don’t like having their photo taken while they eat. Because of this one reason, you’ll receive far fewer photos from your reception than you will for the rest of your wedding day. Some couples get nervous about missing out on candid moments with all of their guests. But let me put your fears to rest: if I am doing my job at the ceremony and through cocktail hour, you’ll have lots of photos of you with all of your guests. So what you’re really getting from the reception is only photos of the speeches, and I’ll share my opinion with you on that here.
If you are having a traditional reception with a sit-down dinner, you’re looking at at least 3 hours of photography coverage. That, alone, can be $1000 or more just to have me present. That doesn’t include my assistant’s and my meals or additional time if things don’t run as quickly as expected, which is common. But, as I already mentioned, we don’t take photos at all times through your reception. There are two reasons for this. First, guests don’t like being photographed while they eat, and second, we need a bit of time to eat as well.
Here are a few tips for reception coverage that will help you save money and maximize your time with your photographer:
- Consider having your first dance, father-daughter, and mother-son dances when you enter your reception.
- Cut your cake before dinner. This will also allow for your cake to be cut and served for desert.
- Have your photographer served first. This will allow them to finish each course before picking up their camera to photograph the next set of speeches. When we are served last, we often get only two bites of our meal before having to leave the table to photograph speeches.
Another Wedding Photography Itinerary Resource
Looking for more resources to help you find your dream wedding photographer? An experienced photographer will be able to work with you to build your ideal wedding photography itinerary. I have the best one for you. It is my Dream Photographer Workbook. You can use the form below to get your own copy. Use the resources inside to find your photographer and print it out or fill it out on your computer to interview them.
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